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Turkey: Prosecutor seeks trial for pro-Kurdish MP over PKK pictures

Images emerged showing HDP MP Semra Guzel embracing a PKK fighter, who she says she was engaged to
HDP MP Semra Guzel with now deceased PKK member Volkan Bora in a PKK camp in Iraq in 2014. (Credit: SuperHaber)

A Turkish prosecutor filed a summary of proceedings against an MP from Turkey’s pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), after pictures emerged on media that showed her embracing a PKK militant. 

Turkish news website SuperHaber earlier this week published undated photos that show HDP MP Semra Guzel with a Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) militant in a camp in Iraq. The report said the military seized the photos from a phone belonging to PKK member Volkan Bora in 2017 after killing him and three other members of the militant group. Guzel appeared in the images in PKK fighter-style clothing as well.

'It is inconceivable that such pictures, which were seized by the government five years ago, now are brought to the public sphere'

- Semra Guzel, HDP MP

The photographs triggered a string of condemnation from the government, with the Ankara prosecutor on Tuesday submitting a summary of proceedings to the presidency to launch a formal inquiry against Guzel and remove her immunity as an MP. Parliament needs to hold a vote to allow criminal proceedings against her. 

Turkey has fought a guerilla war with the PKK since 1984, when the organisation first launched its armed campaign to carve out an independent Kurdish state. The group now says it wants greater autonomy for Kurds in Turkey.

The fighting is believed to have resulted in at least 40,000 deaths since the conflict began. Turkey, the European Union and the United States have designated the PKK a terrorist group.

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Peace talks

Guzel, the HDP deputy, said in a written statement that she was engaged to Bora, the PKK militant, and was able to visit him in 2014 as Turkey was conducting peace negotiations with the group. 

“He left the country after a series of prosecutions and trials,” she said. “I tried to reach him as any others who tried to see their loved ones between 2013-15 when a resolution process [between the government and the PKK] brought a positive spirit."

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Guzel said she was asked to wear PKK camouflage due to security. She also said that the government at the time was aware that civilians were visiting Iraq to see their relatives, as Ankara was directly talking to PKK to bring the war to an end. 

“It is inconceivable that such pictures, which were seized by the government five years ago, now are brought to the public sphere,” she said. “I became an MP in 2018 and no proceedings have been launched against me since."

Mustafa Sentop, the speaker of parliament, told the press that Guzel’s immunity should be lifted in accordance with the parliament’s internal rules, and she should stand trial for failing to distance herself from a terrorist group.

Turkey's constitutional court last year accepted an indictment seeking to disband the HDP for alleged links to the PKK, paving the way for a trial that could fine or permanently close the country’s third-largest party.

Over the past two years, the Turkish government has launched a crackdown on the party, dismissing 50 HDP mayors from office, detaining several party MPs and more than 7,000 party members on terrorism charges.

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